Khan's quick finish hints at golden finale

Amir Khan is moving here from a blaze of thrilling promise to the wonderful certainty of real achievement.

Amir Khan is moving here from a blaze of thrilling promise to the wonderful certainty of real achievement. It is a rite of passage that brushes against the best of Olympic boxing history ­ and recalls dangerously, but not without some validity, the fact that Muhammad Ali was a year older when he burst upon the world in Rome.

Khan is not Ali, of course, and to suggest as much even for a careless second would be a burden more than a tribute. But there is no question about it, this is a special fighter indeed. At 17 ­ the age when Floyd Patterson, who was later to become world heavyweight champion, won the middleweight title at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952 ­ Khan now has a bronze medal after his eviscerating work last night on the tough 24-year-old South Korean, Baik Jong-sub.

It is the first significant bauble on the way to what only cruelly random fate can prevent becoming a major boxing career.

Khan meets the brawling Serik Yeleuov, of Kazakhstan, in Friday's lightweight semi-final, and at this distance it is hard not to imagine the brilliant youth's appearance in Sunday's final against the Cuban Mario Kindelan as the last word in formality.

What happens then is, suddenly, a matter of vast and thrilling intrigue. Khan lost to Kindelan, the world amateur lightweight champion, in a pre-Olympic tournament here in the spring. But, given the coruscating progress of the boy from Bolton over the last week or so here, you have to say it is a long, long time from May to August.

Time, enough surely, to turn a boy into an authentic fighting man of the highest potential. Last night he simply dismissed the threat of a world-ranked fighter from one of the toughest environments known to the lighter divisions of boxing. Korea ranks with Mexico as the producer of small but deadly packages of pugilistic aggression, but last night one of its fighting sons strayed way out of his class.

Khan won when the Bulgarian referee stopped the fight after just 1min 37sec of the first round. The damaging combination was a classic left-right as the Korean came storming in with more desperation than hope. Earlier, a heavy right cross had put Baik on the canvas ­ a place he seemed to be considering less as a place of humiliation as of salvation.

Khan was finding his target with thrilling ease as the Korean realised, as the rest of the boxing fraternity has been grasping in this tournament, that he was facing opposition of an exceptional quality.

By fight time in the Peristeri Boxing Hall there was a rare sense of expectation. Khan's impact here has been quite extraordinary, reviving that old sense of the Olympics as a genuine proving ground for talent which might just irrigate a desperately jaded professional game.

It is a long time since the phenomenon occurred and Khan's brilliant progress to last night's quarter-finals had, understandably enough, alerted the paymasters of American television boxing, including the head of Showtime TV in New York, Jay Larkin. Before these Games, Larkin declared: "I couldn't even tell you the American super-heavyweight entrant, because I've been told there simply isn't anything coming through the amateurs. This is very depressing for the future of the sport."

Larkin was certainly right to ignore the potential of America's big man, Jason Estrada. He went out on Monday to Cuba's Michael Nunez in a parody of the kind of performance which distinguished such former Olympic champions as Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier and Lennox Lewis.

Afterwards Estrada gave a bleak insight into the current aura of Olympic boxing. When asked about the level of his disappointment, he said: "Frankly, I don't give a damn ­ I'm turning pro next month."

Khan, though, represents something entirely different. He talks, with impressive modesty, about learning his trade and going on to fight in Beijing in the next Olympics. But that may be too much of a pause. Khan is moving at a breathtaking rate towards a natural extension of his challenge. Careful professional management seems to be the route to a career that can surely be a powerful current in British and, maybe, world boxing. He has been widely compared with Naseem Hamed, but he rejects the comparison. He says that Naseem had great talent, but too much arrogance. That is not so much an insult as a philosophical insight of vast encouragement for all those who see high talent as a gift to protect rather than plunder.

Last night, after the demolition of Baik, Khan declared: "I am thrilled. I came here wanting to win a medal of some description and now I have got that medal, no one can take it away from me. The Korean was made for me. He had slow hands and slow feet. I didn't expect to win so quickly but he was made for me. I have to fight for silver before I can think of gold, but all the attention is not going to bother me."

The British team coach, Terry Edwards, said: "Using a straight right is something we worked on in the dressing-room. We thought it might work by the second round, but Khan beat him in the first. Now I think he can go all the way."

It is strange to think the rulers of British boxing hesitated to bring Khan here. They thought he was too young. They thought wrong, and utterly so. This is a boy fighter who has more than a chance to win an Olympic medal. He can make an empire all of his own.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor